What can I do if a retailer goes into administration?

If a retailer goes into administration, it may not be clear what your rights are. Read our guide to help you understand what you’re entitled to.
spread the word
email & print
News update

Final BHS stores expected to close

Monday 22 August 2016

High street chain BHS to cease trading

The last 35 BHS stores are expected to close this week, with the doomed retailer set to disappear from the high street entirely by the weekend.

Buyer beware: If you intend to make any purchases during the closing sales it is unlikely you'll be able to claim any refund for faulty products as the retailer will have ceased trading.

If you spend more than £100 make sure you use a credit card as you'll be able to make a claim against your credit card company under Section 75 Consumer Credit Act if anything goes wrong. 

If you're buying electricals, check if the item comes with a manufacturers warranty - if it breaks, you'll need this to get it repaired or get your money back.

Can I use gift vouchers?

A number of high street stores have refused to allow customers to use gift vouchers after going into administration. Unfortunately, this is within the law.

But, if the administrator take this decision it's worth waiting a few days to see if it will change it's mind.

If your gift vouchers are refused, you need to make a claim in writing to the administrators with proof of your vouchers.

You can find the name of the administrator on the website of the retailer that has gone into administration.

But there's no guarantee you'll get all of your money back, and it could take up to 12 months to process the claim properly. And, not all administrators will take this approach.

If you want to get your money back, you can use our template letter to claim a refund for vouchers from a bust company.

Can I return items to a retailer?

It depends. Once a retailer goes into administration the administrator's role is to try and save the company, and in doing so, it may take the decision not to accept returns.

But, if you bought an item that's faulty and it came with a warranty, you should be able to claim a refund or repair from the manufacturer under the terms of the warranty.

You may be able to make a claim on an extended warranty, if cover was provided by a third party (eg an insurance company).

Normally, you have a right to return faulty items, but once a company goes into administration, this is invalid.

If you have a faulty item, you could register your claim with the administrators for the cost of fixing the item, or for a refund if there's still time to reject the item.

If you paid for goods that cost under £100 on a credit or debit card, you may be able to claim under chargeback.

If the value of your goods exceeds £100, you can claim under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act if the item is faulty. 

Can I use my warranty?

If the retailer goes into administration and the goods are faulty, then your manufacturer's warranty should cover you for at least the first year. 

Check your documentation to see if this is the case.

If you’ve been supplied with faulty goods and the company is placed into administration but is still trading, you may be able to get a replacement or a refund in the normal way under the Consumer Rights Act.

Check the small print carefully to see who actually provided the warranty cover. Often it’s provided by a third party (an insurance company, for example) in which case you shouldn’t be affected if a store ceases trading.

If cover was provided by the retailer in question, then it depends on what happens at the end of the administration period. 

If the retailer ceases to trade, then unfortunately you would lose the benefit of the extended warranty.

Remember that you'll usually get a manufacturer’s guarantee with an item which will provide some protection for the first year - sometimes even longer.

Summary

If a retailer goes into administration, it can refuse to accept gift vouchers or chargeback claims. But, the administrators may choose to refund all or part of your money. 

If your item is faulty, the manufacturer's warranty should cover you for at least a year. You might also be able to claim on your credit card under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. 

Can I claim from my card company?

If you've bought something on your credit card costing more than £100, means the card provider is jointly responsible for any breaches of contract.

For example, you could ask for a refund if the things you bought weren't delivered, or you could claim for the cost of a repair if they were faulty.

Write to your credit card company with details of your claim. You can use our template letter to claim a refund from your credit card company if a retailer goes bust.

If you’ve paid by debit card you may be able to claim through the MasterCard and Visa chargeback scheme, as long as it hasn’t been more than 120 days since paying on your debit card and making your claim. 

Can I claim if I only paid a deposit?

You don't have to have paid the full amount on your credit card – the card company is liable even if you made only part of the payment (a deposit, say) on your card.

It's the value of the goods you're buying that's key, not the amount paid on the card. 

Under Section 75, as long as the value of the product is between £100 and £30,000 then you'll be covered, regardless of how much you paid on your card.

So, for example, if you ordered a new camera and paid a £50 deposit with your credit card and paid the balance of £500 by cheque, you'd be covered for the whole £550 if the company went out of business and you didn't get your camera.

Can I make a chargeback claim?

If a company is accepting gift vouchers then chargeback claims will not be accepted.

If gift vouchers aren't being accepted and you bought gift vouchers on your card, you should be able to put in a chargeback request to your bank on the grounds that the vouchers are fundamentally different to what you paid for.

This is because you expected to be able to exchange the vouchers for goods of a certain value and instead they're worthless.

If the vouchers were given to you as a gift, it's trickier to make this argument. The person who received a voucher as a gift can't make a claim. 

But the person who bought the vouchers could put in a chargeback request to the bank.You can use our letter template to help you make a chargeback claim.

It's worth noting though, that there's no guarantee the administrators will accept chargeback claims.

Can I get cash-back?

If you were supposed to get cash-back as part of your purchase, it depends on how the cash-back offer was set up - you may still receive it. 

Check the terms and conditions to see whether the offer is backed by the manufacturer (ie they'll send the cash as long as you claim in the way specified), or whether the cash-back claim should be made to the retailer.

If the manufacturer is providing the cash-back, your claim shouldn't be affected. 

If it's the retailer, you could still put in a claim and they would be in breach of contract if they didn't send the cash.

If you didn't get the cash, unfortunately you couldn't take court action against the retailer while it's in administration.

If at the end of the administration the retailer stopped trading, you'd need to lodge your claim for unpaid cash-back with the administrators.  

Please tell us what you think of the Which? Consumer Rights website.

Your feedback is vital in helping us improve this site. All data will be treated confidentially. This survey will take approximately 5 minutes to complete.

Please take our survey so we can improve our website for you and others like you.